Building habits for a lifetime
The time spent at the university is typically one of great change for students. They are making decisions about who they want to be as they enter the adult world. Ohio State Lima is hoping one of the attributes they come away with from their time here is a lifetime habit of service and community leadership.
“One of our greatest aspirations for our students is that they leave here with a deep understanding of our school motto ‘Education for citizenship,’” said Charlene D. Gilbert, dean and director at Ohio State Lima. “We want our students to provide strong leadership to their communities and we want them to have a deep commitment to improving and growing the places where they will live and work.”
Ohio State Lima is a vibrant, bustling place that offers new opportunities and things to think about every day. In addition to adjusting to the increased responsibility of college, most students are taking the first steps toward an independent household away from what for many has been a lifetime group of friends and activities. Every thing is different and it is a prime time to redefine themselves for the next phase of life – adulthood.
“With all of the new possibilities that college presents — new cues, new social relationships, increased maturity — it seems that college could certainly be a good time to establish new habits,” said Dr. Virginia Tompkins, assistant professor of Psychology.
Volunteering opportunities abound on campus both for individuals and groups. Student groups like the Social Work Club and the Education Club are proving to be volunteer powerhouses both in terms of providing manpower, finding donations and organizing drives for good causes.
The new service initiative WeServe recognizes the importance of helping students build the positive habit of service. Staff and faculty model what service to the community looks like for the students as they all work together at campuswide projects like volunteering at Our Daily Bread or working at the United Way Day of Caring.
“Students may find that a new behavior more easily becomes habit if they find a consistent cue to doing the behavior, repeat this over and over again until it becomes routine, find something rewarding in the experience or something that they can do to reward themselves for doing the behavior, find a partner or group to do the activity with, and to start with a positive attitude,” Tompkins said.
Ohio State Lima’s Student Senate has focused on kindness as the habit they want to promote in their peers. Throughout the year, senate members have been passing out “fuzzies,” little packages of warm wishes and treats designed to surprise and delight their fellow students when they come across them on campus.
“We as a group believe we have the power to make someone happy with these random acts of kindness. A new environment, such as college, constitutes new habits to be formed, habits such as kindness,” said Kayla Brown, Student Senate president and a junior in Business Management from Clyde. “Kindness is free and a language everyone can understand. Through our kindness we strive to lead by example and encourage students to share the wealth.”
Student Senate has also pledged to volunteer as a group and are working the American Red Cross. So far they have primed the Red Cross chapter house for a new coat of paint and worked in the community installing smoke detectors. Next the group will be going into schools to help educate children in disaster preparedness.
For more about WeServe, visit the website.
Photo above: The Ohio State Lima Student Senate is working closely with the American Red Cross to help younger students learn disaster preparedness.
How a habit forms
Let’s follow Brutus Buckeye through the process of forming a volunteer habit.
Cue: The end of class is the consistent cue for Brutus to get in the car and go to the volunteer site.
Routine: Performing the volunteer act is the routine.
Reward: The experience of helping can be its own reward or Brutus can reward himself with something external, like having time with friends as they volunteer together or stopping afterward for a treat.
Craving: When Brutus and his friends experience the cue and begin to anticipate the reward, a fourth component comes into the loop – craving. In the case of volunteering, the volunteer could begin to crave the sense of accomplishment or the feeling of helpfulness.
Thank you Dr. Virginia Tompkins for describing the process of habit formation.